Sunday, 10 June 2018

SG Petch Championship at Teesside Round 4 2018

For round four of the 2018 SG Petch Championship at Teesside we raced on the smaller national circuit without either the front "D" chicane or the seldom used back D. Beautiful June weather and plenty of grip left over from last week's drift racing helped give us close racing with some of the usual contenders for victory seen in the midfield.

Heavy Race 1: Dale Proud's first pole

Qualifying for race 1 provided a great mixed up grid with usual contender Cameron McLean qualifying 21st and Dale Proud taking his first pole. Despite the unusual look of the grid Dale was at the front of the pack on merit with good race pace finishing race one 3rd behind Dawson who won from 6th and Silkstone from 2nd. It's good to see Dale up there. We've been equal on pace and racing close together most races for years now. I drew a good kart, number 13, qualified 13th and finished 13th. Although this isn't where I want to be it's an improvement on last year. Just making the top 15 reverse grid beats the whole of last year. Kart 13 had good straight line speed and felt loose; It was easy to get it turned in despite lacking a little grip. A great all-round kart!

Heavy Race 2: Kimmins gains EXP

I had a great start from 3rd to 2nd off the line and had a faster kart than Cameron McLean who was starting 1st. I just couldn't get past; had I been more assertive I would've took the lead. I never realised at the time that I was racing Cameron McLean who usually starts race two around 15th because of the reverse grid. I don't feel too bad in retrospect about Cameron increasing the lead from me in second. What's bad is I finished 11th. In an eventful race that I loved been part of it's not something I'm going to dwell on. I just need to keep ahold of my position when racing near the front and move forward instead of backwards. 5th to 10th on lap 17.

I gained my EXP points while in 5th for 10 laps following kart 1, looking at the time sheets I was following Jamie Henderson. I tend to be on or off with the throttle, all or nothing. Partly because there isn't much in-between with karts such as these, partly a lack of finesse. Keeping close to Jamie we where catching the three leaders and I could hear the throttle on the kart in front. I tend to keep my foot down and use the steering angle to either scrub off speed by turning sharply; or on the corner exit I might plant the throttle on the apex and run wide through the exit to give the kart a chance to build up speed. My intention in creating this technique is to keep the revs up and momentum high thought the corners but I can see I need to work on the basic principles. I was copying Jamie's technique from what I could hear; power on smoothly from the apex, not too fast into the corners. I need to take another look at the basic principles. A good positive result with another fast kart. 

Light Race 1: There's a GIF made just for Karl Parkin's win

Light Race 2: Well earned win for Paul Clarke

Race two of lights was great to watch; I think this is Paul's first win and he worked hard for it. The reverse grid gave us two battles for the race win. From the front of the grid Matthew Brayne, with Paul Clarke and Ben Stuart fighting for the lead. The fighting allowed the leaders from race one to move through the top ten and close on the leaders. Adam Delmont was closing fast while battling with Ashley Savidge; the two of them dragged each other up through the pack while the winner of race 1 Karl Parkin was surprisingly unable to move forward from 15th. From the lead battle Ben Stuart retired while Paul Clarke opened a gap from early leader Matthew Brayne. As the laps ticked down Adam and Ashley caught Matthew for second and third but where unable to challenge Paul Clarke taking, I'm 99% sure, his first win in the SG Petch.

Heavyweight Round 4 Result (top 5)

1st #117 Andy Dawson 170 points
2nd #106 Jamie Henderson 165 points
3rd #123 Paul White 157 points
4th #182 Chris Cutler 155 points
5th #144 Wayne Clark 147 points
14th #169 James Kimmins 100 points

Lightweight Round 4 Result (top 5)

1st #28 Ross O'Meara 175 points
2nd #5 Adam Delmont 175 points
3rd #14 Ashley Savidge 156 points
4th #19 Ben Thornton 145 points
5th #211 Robson Jenkins 145 points

Owen Burton is leading the Lightweight Championship from Ben Thornton. Looks like a very open season, although, with Adam Delmont missing one round so far and three strong results he'll move forward from third come the dropped rounds. Never write-off Karl Parkin from fourth.

Despite a poor (by his standards) result today Cameron McLean leads the Heavyweight Championship by a clear margin of 66 points. A single race win is 100 points so half way through the season this is a tough lead for Liam Silkstone and Jamie Henderson to close.

Round 5 is Sunday morning 8th July at Teesside Karting TS6 6XH. The championship is open to all levels of experience with a Clubmans Championship to help introduce new blood to the championship. Costs the same as an Ironman event you might do with the lads from work once in a while but with one big difference; this is real, challenging racing. The link is "here" if you want to join us. Perfect opportunity to race on the international circuit before the British 24hrs

Monday, 21 May 2018

Karting North East KNE Round 4 2018

The 'Thunderkart Challenge' is now called 'Adult Race Day' which just isn't as good a name. Maybe they need a sponsor or a public vote on a new name. Luckily for us the name doesn't matter all that much; the circuit also known as Warden Law is bathed in sunshine for Sunday morning race day.

The 'Karty McKartface Challenge' has been going for years now under various names and formats. The current format is light and heavy divisions, 10 minutes qualifying, 20 minute race, then repeat for race 2 in a different kart to race one. Lights, heavies, lights, heavies. I realised this 5 minutes into race two qualifying where I thought we where doing warm up laps waiting for the marshals to line up the grid in order of race one's result. The weight divide is 80kgs and I weighed in at 78.5 kgs putting me in lights; much to my disadvantage because with all my gear on I'm over the 80 kgs mark.

Race 1: Harrison beats Penfold by 0.1 seconds

The vid of race one is a beautiful view of KNE from seventh. They have it all here; a paintball arena, trail bike section, there's even tomahawks! The time sheet suggests a close battle for victory between Keiran Harrison and Andrew Penfold with Matt Earl in third. AP set the fastest lap of 66.617 while in seventh my best was 68.689.

Race 2: Tough battle for 7th while Penfold wins by 0.1 seconds

The top two from race one where reversed by the same margin in race two, another close battle at the front. Usually CC is winning everything at KNE but while he's absent the best of the rest are picking up points at the business end. I was in a rough battle for seventh and enjoyed it more than I would've last year; I must be a bit less anxious than I was last season. Lap one at Gas Works Bend and my rib protectors payed for themselves! Andrew Penfold beat the lap record, for this 2016 fleet of Sodi Karts, with 65.904. Sixty-five in these karts isn't too bad! Not far off the RX250 2-stroke fleet. I set a personal best for this fleet of 67.858.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

SG Petch Championship at Teesside 2017 Review

It's really taken a long time to get this review of last season finished. My intention for this piece is to not only describe the events of last seasons SG Petch Championship and my adventures therein, but also, and probably more interesting than my results last year, give some insight into anxiety and its effect as an amateur racing driver. I've tried to write this piece as if in the moment when describing fits of anxiety, or paranoia, as well as looking back at last year. Also it's not intended to be offensive to anyone, just an honest look inside an anxious mind.
Photographer: Paul Proud

SG Petch Championship

The north east's premier arrive and drive championship gets stronger every year, with fierce competition for victory at the front of the field and tough battles for every position. Each round consists of two 25 minute races with qualifying deciding the grid for race 1 while the top 15 are reversed for race 2. The grid reversal goes someway to even out the differences between karts and drivers although you'll see the same 5 at the front no matter what kart you give them.

The championship is divided into lightweight and heavyweight devisions dependent on driver weight.  This will be my first season in heavies after racing overweight in lights for a few seasons now. I have some anxiety about racing with the heavies. Worries about getting injured and not been able to work; my job been a temporary contract and without sick benefits this is a real nagging demon. The 2017 season became more a journey in my mind unraveling anxious behaviour and less about moving up the grid.

This is the first full season I've done in the Petch, despite it been my 5th season since discovering the championship in 2013. Back then I thought I'd do the Petch as practice for Club 100. I sat out of one round which counts as my dropped round. I was actually at the track watching. Anxiety got the better of me after the events of the previous round; more on that later.

My state of mind for most of the year

Round 1: Positivity for the heavyweight season

March 2017: International Circuit: Heavyweight
Pole: Craig Brock 1:25.772 I was: 6th (season best) 1:27.019
Race 1: 1st Paul White I was 22nd 1:22.909 Fastest Lap Simon Barker 1:21.883
Race 2: 1st James Marshall I was 21st 1:22.350 Fastest Lap Cameron McLean 1:21.387

The season began with drying conditions after a moist morning. We didn't have a single wet race this year, much to my disadvantage as I fancy my wet driving skills, although I don't mind staying dry. Odd numbered rounds race on the international circuit, home of the British 24hrs. A skilled wheelman can get a lap time averaging over 67 mph negating kerbs steep enough to flip a kart, 70mph bends, fast straights. With all these hazards on track the biggest risk to our health is often ourselves; or the 30+ bandits out to get me depending on my state of mind. Karting at this level isn't a gentlemanly sport, there's loading into corners and taps in the right places to gain advantage. Races here often feel like BTCC door banging carnage, part of the attraction of the SG Petch Championship!

I qualified 6th in my first race of heavies which was by far my best qually of the year. I weighed in at 86kg making me one of the lightest for once. I also had camera glasses to make a YouTube video with commentary. The plan been to turn the season into a series on my YouTube channel and get income through this to fund some racing.

I had a good start and raced with the lead group in the opening laps. Been light gave me a boost out of the corners as I was able to carry more speed in comparison to those around me. It felt good to be catching on the straights instead of defending. The race was going well until I put a wheel off the tarmac into a hairpin and spun 180. With a train of karts taking the hairpin I had to wait and rejoined around 15th. I then spun 180 again and parked it against a tyre wall, needing a push from a marshal. Two costly unforced errors. Maybe trying to do some old Top Gear Tiff Needell thing for YouTube was distracting. My focus wasn't on racing. It was disappointing to make unforced errors when racing high up with a good kart but my first race in heavies showed some promise for a competitive season.

Round 2: Results going flat

April 2017: National Circuit: Heavyweight
Pole: Paul White 52.036 I was 34th 54.440
Race 1: 1st Paul White I was 30th 54.014 Fastest Lap Cameron McLean 52.072
Race 2: 1st Liam Silkstone I was 31st 54.550 Fastest Lap Liam Moulden 52.061

Round two was a fuck-up from start to finish. Entirely my own fault which doesn't make it any better. Before this weekend's racing I decided formatting the SD card in my camera glasses was a good idea.

I managed to make the SD unuseable, not sure what I did; and I spent too much time the night before trying to fix it. Seems like developing a YouTube channel was more important than developing some racing skill. In the end I found an old 2GB card which somehow overwrote what it had recorded every 10 minutes. Rendering my commentary a complete waste of time. Trying to do commentary while racing for youTube views. The mic been part of the glasses gets muffled against the helmet lining and my skull meaning I have to do subtitles, so any of the 30 good people who watched it have a clue what I'm saying. Later in 2017 YouTube changed their rules on monetising videos and Teesside banned cameras; so with no new videos and no adverts for income the Dark Horse Karting channel is pretty fucked.

We where racing on the short national track today using a fast 180 bend to form a circuit without the valley and hill of the international circuit. I was painfully slow this day. My kart wouldn't turn left unless I forced it, using the full width of the track, turning in on the brakes and lifting for oversteer to get the kart turned left. Full lock with tonnes of understeer then lift off to pull the back into oversteer. Despite this I couldn't place what was wrong with the kart, if anything. Something I should be able to do as an experienced karter. I was well below bang-average in the midfield where I usually reside. Even on a bad day I shouldn't qualify 34th and last. I guess I'm still lacking in my 5th season of racing. After the heavyweight round was the new feeder series called Clubmans. The competitor who drew my kart in the lottery, a James Hunt fan, made one lap before returning straight back to the pits complaining of a flat tyre.

I really was in poor form. This was also the last time I've worn camera glasses or any helmet cams. On the final lap of each race the winner lapped me before the flag giving me two great opportunities for some commentary. It might've made a good series recording every round with live commentary but round 1 remains my most recent Dark Horse Karting YouTube video and in all probability will remain so. It takes a long time to edit videos to the standard I want to produce. Time I don't have while working 12 hour shifts in a factory. Add to this YouTube's decision to stop paid adverts on channels with less than 10,000 views and the fact that my vids get very few views. Making movies is one hobby and potential income source I have to let go.

Round 3: Kimmins retires in aid of self preservation

May 2017: International Circuit: Heavyweight
Pole: Liam Moulden 1:21.510 I was 21st 1:22.733
Race 1: 1st Liam Moulden I was 22nd 1:22.285 (best INT lap) Fastest lap Josh Greaves 1:21.285
Race 2: 1st Cameron McLean DNF Fastest Lap Liam Moulden 1:20.928

If round 2 was a fuck-up from start to finish how can I describe round 3? Anxiety got the better of me; thanks in part to a few near death experiences. I should mention I'm trying to write this as if in a state of anxiety, as I was in the moment, to try and give some insight into an anxious mind.

Qualifying for race 1 was an improvement on the last round qualifying 21st up from 34th. How low I've fallen! So much for the advantage of been light. My time was 1.2 seconds of pole which demonstrates a close field of drivers.

Starting this far back I'm on the end of the straight with the guys behind getting a hill start off the final bend. I have other things distracting my mind, tenuous work situation for one,  and this is effecting my performance, as I move up the field into a hotly contested mid-field battle. Anxiety is something I've battled with most of my life, often unknowingly, since around the age of 10 in the early 1990's. I have plenty to be anxious about outside karting; my job is on a temporary contract and could end any minute leaving me destitute, if I get injured how do I make rent? Anxiety requires thought and effort to mull over what could go catastrophically wrong although it never in reality seems to. In the thick of a battle for 15th or so I'm heading towards the fast right at the bottom of the hill at full speed with a wide line to carry as much speed as I can through the bend. Behind me (lets give him a fake name) Racer-X sees a gap and launches his kart over the kerb nearly landing on my front right wheel; not far from landing on my foot crushing it to a pulp. This give my anxieties plenty to feed on; "If he breaks my ankle crash landing on it I'm off work unpaid, I'll not make rent and end up homeless". Every corner is a risk. When I break will I be hit from behind hard enough to brake my neck? Will I get broken ribs from a robust side-barging overtake bashing the side of my kart? For the rest of race 1 I avoid any potential contact and give everyone a wide berth finishing 22nd in survival mode.

Race 2 started with me screaming in Racer-X's face. That shut him up! A year later "Racer-X" and I had a great clean scrap for the whole round; I had the straight line speed and he had the breaks. Back to 2017 and It didn't get any better unfortunately. On the 80mph back straight I end up in the middle of a NASCAR style wreck; anxieties aside it could've been a neck breaker for a few of us.

I don't want to be jumping that massive kerb fast approaching on the left like Dukes of Hazard as we race down the back straight at maximum speed. I need to be as far to the right on the straight as possible so nobody intensionally forces me off the track. I see enough space to my right with a kart over my shoulder one kart length behind. What I didn't see was the kart in-between us at the edge of my bumper. As I moved across him I was turned sideways into the side of the kart I saw, bounced of the tyre wall and spun sideways across the width of the track. Karts behind were diving out of the way at full speed left and right. This is why I spent £300 on a Leatt neck brace and rib protectors. In my anxious state people are out to break my neck not to race. If I stay on this track a moment longer I'm going to be killed or worse, unable to go to work for a few weeks because everyone is out to fuck me up! Or maybe it's just Racer-X. And so it is with anxiety when it gets the better for you. Been rational isn't an option. So with the track to myself now I'm half a lap behind on one of the longest circuits in the world, with no-one near to fuck-me-up but myself. I drove straight to the pits. Missed out the infield section to get there fast. Missed out the second hairpin to get back to safety faster, threw my #130 race number board away and retired from the race.

Round 4: Kimmins giving up karting?

June 2017: National Circuit
Dropped round: Contemplating life

I was a spectator for round 4 questioning what I'm actually doing karting in my mid thirties. It does have this perception of been a sport for children. Do I continue racing when my results seem to get worse? What are my motives for racing? Am I just too old for this shit? Turning up to watch instead of doing something else is a sign that I'm still interested.

Am I turning up to race or to meet friends? I'm very much an introvert, just my natural disposition rather than an anxious thing. Been introvert means I get my strength from within whereas an extrovert feeds of attention.  My anxious thing socially would be awkwardness, something I inherit from my father. Something I need to overcome. It's interesting how many of my anxieties and worries match my fathers anxieties and worries. I should really drop them off my shoulders and mail them back home. I can't be that larger-than-life loud guy who's the life of the party, either do I need to be the centre of attention; I do need to get talking to people. What the fuck am I scared of anyway? Probably fear of boring people and that screwed up face look I get which says to me, "Who the fuck are you". Thinking about it I rarely receive that screwed up confused expression since I learned to make eye contact while talking and to listen rather than wait to speak. Alcohol helps but it doesn't mix will with driving. I don't remember who won round four. I tend to zone out and daydream. Probably makes me seem a bit aloof. Not ideal when I consider the people I race with good friends. Sort of helps my anxiety when there's no-one close to potentially do things to make me anxious.

During 2017 I was working in a factory doing what's called "continental shifts". Can't imagine the French inventing a system of 12 hour shifts or the Germans who seem to look after the working people! It feels more like a brutal Chinese Foxconn system designed only to churn out products and profit. My week from the summer of 2016 til late 2017 was an 8 day week with two 6 to 6 12 hour day shifts, 2 6 to 6 nightshifts then sort of 4 days of. This job was a major source of my anxiety, although I'm back there after been laid off for 3 months so I won't say much about this job. I will say I was taking my asthma inhaler every day, sometimes 6, 7 times while at work. I was diagnosed with asthma really young, around aged 5, with a mother who smoked 20 a day and a flat above a shop full of damp and mould. During 2017 my chest was tight. I couldn't get air deep into the low parts of my lungs feeling like I was suffocating more and more as my chest continued to tighten through the summer and relentless half day shifts. In November after awaken from a 12 hour nightshift I received a call telling me my job was finished with immediate effect. My income falling from £35k to zero in an instant. No family or savings to depend on. The day before that call was the last time I needed an asthma inhaler.

Not the same factory I work in now. Just me 5 years past living bad life choices.
In some realities I'm still at Nissan. In some of those realities I choose to enjoy it.

Round 5: Foolishly seeking safety with the lightweights

July 2017: International Circuit: Lightweight
Pole: Andy O'Donnell 1:21.049 I was 25th 1:23.528
Race 1: 1st Owen Burton 27th I was 1:23.001 Fastest Lap James Aldridge 1:20.686
Race 2: 1st Adam Delmont I was 23rd 1:23.939 Fastest Lap Hamed Mohd 1:20.901

Racing with heavies is making me anxious, or at least adding to them like I don't have enough. So I returned to lights with a new number, #18, replacing the cursed #130. I thought it would be cool to use James Dean's number 130 as something aspirational. Little did I know about the cursed nature of his old Porsche which somehow kept taking lives as a morbid road safety show years after Dean's fatal crash. I was relieved to get rid of #130 (which is also unlucky 13 with a fat 0) and replace it with 18, a number which somehow has an aesthetically pleasing shape to it and a lucky feel.

I qualified 25th, 2.5 seconds of pole, and start again from the last corner more than the straight. I was feeling too heavy back in lights, but safer! Until I was pushed off the track at what I consider the most dangerous point. The steep kerb at the end of the back straight acts as a ramp and I spin on landing managing to get stuck in the rough grass. In my anxious state I'm lucky I don't die although I don't seem to care anymore. What if the bumper dug into the ground? The kart could've flipped and landed on top of me. What if I crack my crash helmet on one of those rocks? Go-Pros are banned because of things like this. Instead of parking it I kept going and finished 27th. In race 2 I finish 23rd. Off the pace is an understatement although I did lose half a lap spinning off kerbs. I managed to survive the thick of battle unharmed despite what goes on in my head.

Heavies have a reputation of been rough racers, dare I call them dirty racers? Where as lights have a rep for been clean. At least this was my opinion in the past. my opinion of heavies been a dirty bunch of Maldonaldo's and Verstappen's is completely unfair and I must apologise. Light's are just as filthy! More so down the field of both divisions where I find myself this year fighting for 20th or so, been hit back and sides and repaying in equal measure. I've learnt through experience that every karting championship at this level has this in common wither heavy or light. The front of the grid mostly race clean and the back often race dirty; often because of inexpirence or desperation to move up. Wonder if I've insisted on racing clean from the start due to anxiety? I don't want to get hit so I wait for the perfect big gap when overtaking. Unless I get hit first then I pay it back. Maybe I need to force my way through these low positions like a wrecking ball. I've seen it done without warning flags many times. When I get to the midfield use my bumpers to open every gap so I can get to the front. Writing this in November ( and editing in May) a more aggressive style is coming for 2018. Round 5 was completed without serious personal injury. That jump over the kerb even loosened my neck. Two rounds left in 2017 and results can only get better.

Round 6: An improvement on previous races

September 2017: National Circuit: Lightweight
Pole: George Davies 51.963 I was 21st 54.639
Race 1: 1st Karl Parkin I was 23rd 54.471 Fastest Lap Carl Seamark 51.716
Race 2: 1st James Aldridge I was 18th 53.243 (best NAT lap) Fastest Lap James Aldridge 51.483

Another race with the lights. Another dry race. Its taken me a long time of thinking about finishing this blog post and procrastination; such is my commitment I'm trying to remember back to 7 months from April 2018, now May, to a kart race where my performance was below where I wish it to be, despite having my best result on the shorter national circuit in race 2.

Qualification placed me on the last corner for the grid. Far down the road where the three wide standing start morphs into five wide with the drivers sub 25th having the advantage of a downhill start!

I was going through the motions in this round. Which is strange considering I don't need to be here. No-one is forcing me to race. It must've done me some good to switch off because I got my best placing of the year on the national circuit finishing 18th.

Having a best finish of 18th is something I'm not proud of! In past years I would drive down the A1 to Whilton Mill and Milton Keynes for CovKart, Clay Pigeon and Buckmore Park for Club 100. In 2017 I only raced at Teesside once a month; the lack of track time can't have helped my performances.

Round 7: Positive race 2 reminds me why I love this

October 2017: International Circuit: Lightweight
Pole: Max Coates 1:21.286 I was 22nd 1:23.746
Race 1: 1st Karl Parkin I was 20th 1:23.474 Fastest Lap Robson Jenkins 1:20.995
Race 2: 1st Karl Parkin I was 16th (best finish) 1:22.658 Fastest Lap Karl Parkin 1:21.034

The final race of the season provided my best result of the year finishing 16th. Race one followed the course of the season finishing down in 20th but the opening laps of race 2 gave me a buzz which had been missing since the first round. From 20th I moved into the top ten on the first lap. There was a pile-up in the international section collecting a lot of the leading karts, including Max Coates, and causing many others to lose momentum. These places where not taken though pace or skill, other than skilfully avoiding joining the accident, but it was enough to lift my spirits. Just to be near the front for a few laps while the usual suspects for victory got back on the road and caught up.

In performance terms 2017 was my worst year in karting. It's not like I've set the world on fire winning everything since 2013 when I first entered a kart race at Buckmore Park with Club 100. I'm yet to win a race or even podium with my only silverware been 3rd place in the CovKartSport Winter Series. A trophy I'm proud of, there's just no race wins to go with it. Making my poor results in 2017 all the more disappointing at a time when I need to be moving up the grid rather than falling back or stagnating. The lightweight championship was won by Karl Parkin and the heavyweight championship by Cameron McLean.